Q&A with Tina Edmundson, Marriott International

With Marriott International for more than 10 years, Tina Edmundson, who’s been the hospitality company’s global brand officer since 2016, has seen Marriott grow its portfolio to 30 brands over the years. In her role, she oversees the hotel group’s entire brand portfolio.

Hotel Business caught up with her to find out how she goes about overseeing Marriott’s portfolio of 30 brands; why there’s an interest in the hospitality giant’s luxury portfolio; and what she believes is the most pressing issue in the hospitality industry today.

How do you go about overseeing all 30 of Marriott’s brands? Marriott International offers the largest and most compelling range of brands and properties in hospitality, and we see the diversity of our 30 brands as one of our biggest strengths. Our range of brands enables us to tailor the hotel experience so that no matter what our guests are looking for when they travel, we have an option that will suit their needs. We are focused on carefully setting each brand apart by highlighting nuanced differences and leaning into specific brand touchpoints and product cues. We are constantly evaluating our approach as to how we present and position all of our brands to consumers.

On brand proliferation, you’ve made it clear in previous interviews there’s no such thing as too many brands. How do you go about ensuring each one of Marriott’s brands deliver what they promise? We know that in addition to solid, personable service, what our guests want is choice. The business traveler may be looking for a place to plug in and get a good night’s sleep. The luxury traveler may be looking for highly personalized service and an exclusive experience, and the family of four might be looking for a budget-friendly option in the heart of a destination.

At Marriott International, our portfolio of 30 distinct brands gives us a competitive advantage by allowing us to provide an unmatched variety of travel options and experiences depending on our guests’ mood, travel intent or trip purpose. As I mentioned earlier, we are laser-focused on setting our brands apart through design, differentiated touchpoints and clearly defined brand programming. For example, in the luxury category, we focus on bespoke and superb amenities and services while in the select hotels, it is all about smart and easy access and choice.

Sheraton is a current example where we are in the process of considering all of these elements as we embark on a brand transformation and consider every aspect of the guest experience. We are reimagining the entire public space experience and outfitting it with design and service elements that enhance the sense of community. Everything from the productivity table to the coffee bar/bar enables guests and locals to mingle, gather and work in a great space that just happens to be inside a hotel.

What has Marriott done to ease owners’ worries of brand proliferation? Similar to our guests, providing owners with choice allows them to find a Marriott brand that meets their objectives, giving them options across select- and full-service brands in midscale, upscale, upper-upscale and luxury segments. For example, in most areas, it doesn’t make sense to duplicate the same brand within the same geographical space. With 30 brands, an owner can stay within the Marriott portfolio and get all the benefits of that, while also expanding their footprint in a given market. Our wide range of brands also allows us to have an answer for different kinds of owners. For example, a select-service owner is more likely to be an individual or family business. Select-service is perfect for them as a way to get into the hotel business—lower upfront investment, the margins are greater, and the profit comes quicker. On the other hand, an institutional hotel owner is more likely to invest in full-service or luxury hotels, which can yield greater profits in the long term. Owners are also seeing the value of the work we are doing to drive differentiation between brands. For example, our Moxy brand fills a gap in the market for disruptive brands that have a strong point of view, and offer great service, style and comfort, all at an affordable price. The Moxy NYC Chelsea is a recent example of this. 

In 2018, Marriott signed 29 luxury properties. Why is there an interest in the company’s luxury portfolio? Our record and reputation for luxury leadership in more than 60 countries puts us at the front line of fast-changing global expectations. We recognize that the ‘next generation’ luxury traveler is emerging and understand that there is a demand for different types of luxury in both global hot spots and emerging destinations—a key driver in the rapid growth of our luxury brands portfolio.

With our eight distinct luxury brands, we can provide truly differentiated experiences that appeal to all types of luxury travelers, who are, more than ever before, defining the experience they are seeking rather than settling for a prescribed notion of luxury. Recognizing this global shift in perception around luxury, we are growing our luxury footprint to map perfectly with trend lines.

What’s the most pressing issue in the industry today? Effectively integrating technology so that it makes for a more seamless guest experience without sacrificing the importance of genuine human touch and care. For example, our guests want options such as mobile check-in and mobile key, as well as the ability to communicate with hotel associates without having to pick up the phone and call, which our mobile app allows you to do. We are also seeing a growing trend for services on-demand given that technology is increasing our connectivity and furthering the notion that anything is available, anytime and anywhere.

If you could go back to when you first began your career, what would you tell yourself? Don’t be afraid to take risks, push the envelope and fail. Failure is seen as such a negative word, but many of the best lessons I’ve learned and some of my greatest successes were born from failure. Above all, always be open to new opportunities—you never know where one might lead you. HB

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